PORTLAND, ME – April 16, 2020 – The Mariners have believed in the importance of community since the inception of the franchise, embracing #CommunityAtTheCore as their official community slogan. As they continue to support local COVID-19 relief efforts in today’s uncertain times, the Mariners look back on a 2019-20 season full of giving back to the community that they would not be able to thrive without.
The Mariners 2019-20 season, the second in the history of the franchise, saw the birth of the “Community Collections” program, in which the Mariners held three different drives over the course of the season to benefit local non-profit organizations. In October and November, Mariners fans donated 1,500 pounds of non-perishable food items for the South Portland Food Cupboard. The collection effort changed to socks and underwear for December and January – including the first annual “Underwear Toss” game on February 9th, 2020. A total of 2,006 pairs of underwear and 587 pairs of socks were collected and donated to Preble Street Teen Services. For February and a shortened March schedule, 157 books were collected for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Maine.
The Mariners met 275 donation requests this past season, donating $24,200 in team merchandise, tickets, and other goods. Beacon The Puffin and Mariners players and staff gave 175 hours of their time in appearances over the course of the 2019-20 season. The inaugural summer reading program, “Read With ME,” encouraged 165 registered students to accumulate reading hours to earn Mariners prizes. The program is now open for the summer of 2020. Several Mariners players participated in “Movember,” and competed in a facial hair popularity contest, raising $3,870 for men’s health initiatives throughout the month of November.
“I think it’s awesome when we can find some time throughout the season to get out in the community,” said Mariners forward Dillan Fox. “I know it’s something every guy loves to do when they get the chance and it was awesome having the competition with Movember and seeing our fans rally around us during that was really special.”
A number of regular events during games at the Cross Insurance Arena also contributed to the community outreach. The “Stick Taps” program honored 18 non-profit organizations at home games in the 2019-20 season. Heroes Harbor – in partnership with Partners Bank, offers a complimentary suite to a local, nominated military veteran, police, fire or EMT member at each game. An additional 55 tickets were donated to military personnel in the “Sponsor a Service Member” program. “Goalies Who Give,” was started by Mariners goaltender Tom McCollum in November and provided four tickets for each home game to STRIVE – a local non-profit that serves people of all ages with intellectual disabilities.
“This is what minor league hockey is all about,” said Riley Armstrong, Mariners Head Coach and Assistant General Manager. “It’s about being a part of the community from the front office to the hockey staff. With the efforts made in the community, it helps build the player to fan relationship.”
“Wes McCauley Appreciation Night” on November 15th, 2019 raised $1,440 for the Portland Hockey Trust through the auction of two McCauley game worn NHL officiating jerseys. On December 7th, 2019, 1,523 stuffed animals were collected for four different local fire departments in the annual “Teddy Bear Toss.” In a partnership with Agren and Make-A-Wish Maine, the Mariners wore specialty jerseys designed by 11 year old ‘wish kid,’ Ellie LaBree on February 2nd, 2020, and raised $4,368 for Make-A-Wish Maine through the auction.
Twenty organizations took advantage of the Mariners ticket fundraising program, with the Mariners donating $3,849 to causes such as the Captain Joel Barnes Memorial Fund. The Mariners were also instrumental in the creation of the Captain Joel Barnes Community Service Award, which was awarded to Matt St. Pierre, of the Hampden Fire Department at the game on March 1st, 2020.
Through COVID-19, the Mariners continue to give back to the community. They’ve partnered with Evergreen Credit Union and fellow pro sports organizations, the Portland Sea Dogs and Maine Red Claws, to support Good Shepherd Food Bank with a virtual food drive at Fans4Food.com. The Mariners are also selling T-Shirts on preorder through April 24th at MarinersOfMaine.com/shop for $20, net proceeds benefitting the United Way of Greater Portland and other local COVID-19 relief funds. The Mariners plan to renew all of their community efforts entering the 2020-21 season, as well as actively seeking new ways to give back in the aftermath of COVID-19 and beyond.